Daniel Kahneman on Empathy and Uncertainty
In some ways, this interview with behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman is about a year too late. After election day last year — indeed, in the weeks leading up to it — all I wanted was this: a sensible, thoughtful inquisition into why we skew and ignore facts (I don't even know where to begin with CNN's laughable "Facts First" campaign), why empathy is such a difficult ask for so many people, why we should question the reasons that underpin our beliefs (and, in turn, why so many of those reasons are purely utilitarian, fungible, and expedient). He says it better:
It’s a game, because even if you did destroy the arguments that people raise for their beliefs, it wouldn’t change their beliefs. They would just find other arguments.
My favorite part, though, is when he dives into our discomfort with uncertainty — something I've grappled with a lot this year: the long and challenging whys behind all that appears to be inexplicable:
But the speed at which we find explanations for things that happened makes it difficult for us to learn the deep truth. And the deep truth is that the world is much more uncertain than we feel it is. We see a version of the world that is simplified and — just a lot simpler and a lot more certain than the world really is. So that’s the way I would talk about...We shouldn’t be looking for rationality so much, because by using the word, we seem to expect it to happen. And I think that’s just not the way the mind works.
I found a happy answer in that, a step towards something I felt I knew and believed already. It's rare to sit with a mind of this depth, and I found myself rewinding his answers and rewinding them again.